Joan and I love the pastors of the Southern Florida District, their spouses and their families. In our first year on the district we have done our best within the constraints of time, calendars and distance to get to know our ministerial team. We are amazed at the gifted men and women whom God has called to serve our congregations.
They are all different, and all have a different story. Just in the past month Joan and I have worshiped with Pastor Jorge and Betty Chivara of the Pahokee First Hispanic Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Mark Donnelly of the Margate Shema Christ Fellowship Church, and with Pastor Gary Ball of North Port Coastal Community Church. Talk about diversity!!! The Chivara’s serve a congregation in one of the poorest communities of our state, along with neighboring Belle Glade, along the southeastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. Pastor Mark Donnelly, whose wife Joy recently passed away, pastors a congregation in a significant Jewish area, and has transformed part of a strip mall into holy ground for their worship and ministry. Pastor Gary Ball and his wife Brenda, also rent a commercial facility for their ministry. Two Sunday morning services, one traditional and one more contemporary, allow them to maximize the use of their space. They have a significant feeding program for the needy of their community. This congregation started just 10 years ago in the Ball’s living room and now runs over 200 in attendance. Our Haitian congregations, with worship services that sometimes are 4 hours long, are a significant part of our district family, adding to the diversity of pastors and ministry expressions.
While the contexts and stories and gifts of all these pastors are unique, they all share a passion for God’s people, for God’s word, for the doctrine of heart holiness and for the mission of Christ. Most of our pastors are co-vocational, working secular jobs to fund their ministries. Many accept no salary, and some fund the very operations of their churches largely through their secular earnings. While that is not the ideal, and we hope our congregations move toward providing full financial support for their pastors, these pastors of ours are driven by a divine Calling, and a love for the lost and hurting of our world. They are amazing people, these pastors of the Southern Florida District!
Once a year, in the month of October, we urge our local churches to set aside some time to publicly recognize our pastors. I am calling on church board secretaries and other church leaders to plan for such moments. Let your pastors and their families know how very much you love and appreciate them. Shower them with compliments, with gifts, and with other tangible expressions of your love. Be creative, and be intentional. These shepherds carry heavy burdens for us, and continue to minister to us even when they themselves are suffering. Lift up their arms and encourage them as they obediently pursue God’s Calling in their lives. They are God’s gift to the church. And they are amazing!!!
Brian E. Wilson
Southern Florida District Church of the Nazarene